I spent most of my life chasing a thing called happiness. It always seemed like if I got this one more thing then I would be happy. If only I could get one more promotion. All I need is one more designer handbag. Life will be so much better as soon as I get the new house… I am healthy but I want to be just one size smaller… The truth is I was unhappy, and nothing outside of myself was going to make me happy. But that didn’t stop me from trying!
At age 36, I decided to start spoiling myself. How weird is that term, “spoil myself” – as if it is a bad thing to give yourself the things you want simply because you have the audacity to want them? I could hear a voice in my head saying, “Who do you think you are that you should deserve that?”
We all chase desires. Who among us doesn’t want intimate friendships, mature love, a close-knit family, financial stability, etc? It becomes problematic when we set up these desires as a condition for our happiness. We start agreeing with the notion, “I’ll be happy if and when I get what I want.” These conditions inevitably lead us away from true fulfillment at the soul level.
The Need for Control
It is perfectly fine to want abundance, health and harmony in every aspect of our lives. However, if your happiness is contingent on other people, things, and circumstances, then you are forfeiting your right to be happy in this moment. When we finally find “the one” – the one job, the one person, the one house – we decide ‘Now I am finally happy!” What happens if and when the situation changes?
The constant threat of losing that “happiness” sets us up for fear, insecurity, and a scarcity mindset. We become terrified of losing the thing that brought us so much joy. Heaven forbid the person or circumstance changes, the thought alone is unbearable! This makes us learn to subconsciously resent the very things we wanted so badly while simultaneously trying to control it/him/her/them. This is how we give away our freedom. The belief that there is nothing we can do about it forces us deeper into patterns of controlling behavior, which reinforces our resentment. As the saying goes, it’s a thin line between love and hate.
Pleasure vs. Pain
Equating happiness with having our strongest desires met, no matter how noble these desires seem to be, traps us in the never-ending cycle of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Unfortunately, these are two sides of the same coin. If your highest intention is to seek pleasure while avoiding pain, please know that will eventually lead to suffering. Whomever or whatever it is you are attached to will change, this is an inevitable truth about life. These are the thoughts that keep us on the pleasure/pain carousel:
If I get what I want, then I will be happy.
If I don’t get what I want, then I will be miserable (suffer).
I’ll only be happy when ____ (fill in the blank).
As long as your condition for happiness is contingent on someone or something outside of yourself, you will suffer. The reason for this is simple: life is impermanent and control is an illusion. The more you try to control a person or situation, the further it will slip from your grip. The impetus of any prisoner is to break free. When we seek to control the people we love, we cannot escape the fact that we are imprisoning them with our “love”. We try to resist our fears of abandonment by clinging to what we love, not realizing that we are inadvertently pushing away the love that we so desperately want.
An Awakened Life
Pain and suffering is the immediate result of losing your condition for happiness. Self-love is the only remedy. When you truly love yourself unconditionally, nothing outside of you has the power to permanently destroy your happiness. Even though you may feel deep sadness and pain when something tragic occurs in your life, self-love means you are not left in utter despair. A light still shies within you. You can continue to find meaning, fulfillment and joy – no matter what happens.
Change is a sign of life… and only dead things don’t change. As we continue on our path of spiritual growth, we learn to stop striving for success and external validation. We learn to embrace the impermanence of life which frees us to move towards fulfillment and significance instead.
This is the definition of living an awakened life – recognizing that you are not defined by your circumstances or relationships. We can choose to go within to find the Infinite Source of fulfillment, inner-harmony, peace, joy and love. As we draw from that unlimited Supply, we release the chains of emotional enslavement by our the circumstances and relationships in our lives.
What makes you happy? Are your conditions for happiness primarily internal or external?
What small step are you willing to take to shift your perspective on any external conditions for happiness?
Finish this sentence: If I wasn’t afraid, I would:
May I choose to be happy in this moment.